A Book Review For Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander
I read and listen to books about everything from bravery and acceptance to productivity and leadership. I’ve been in the slow but intentional process of self-renewal for years. Recently, I discovered Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander. It’s the companion to one of my favorite books, The Art of Possibility that she co-authored with her husband, Benjamin Zander.
The best of cognitive science teaches that our thoughts affect our feelings. And ultimately, our happiness. Self-help can be heavy on the ‘why’ but light on the ‘how.’ It’s rare to find details about internalizing big ideas. Adopting new routines is not the same as resetting one’s internal radar.
Rosamund’s delightful personal stories and client examples, go deeper than the positive thinking and meditation routinely prescribed by experts.
Three quick takeaways from the book:
- Self-examine without the guilt or judgement. Rosamund explains, “Habits are transformed in the presence of love, not judgement.” She describes how our early childhood experiences and even those of our parents can tie us to patterns of self-sabotage. She provides tangible ways to explore recurring themes in life without judgement. She writes, “Call yourself a field of awareness, just decide that’s what you are. …You have no opinions or plan and you embrace all parts of yourself without bias.” Brilliant right? She encourages and shows us how to explore those pesky limiting beliefs without assumptions.
- Upgrade old stories. In the first part of the book she describes how childhood stories stick and how to revisit them and revise them with an adult lens. She said, “Name curious or troublesome feelings as memories. When people in your life trigger unwanted feelings in you, first view those feelings as memories. Then intensify them. See what the story is, (i.e. wanting safety, approval or power.)” We can honor our histories without staying trapped in a false construct. Rosamund writes we can decide, “…That was a story I made up.”
- Play mind games. She has a series of ‘games’ that we can play to get unstuck. My favorite is the “I have all the time in the world” game. She explained how to mindshift whenever we feel time scarcity. She pauses, takes a deep breath and thinks (or says aloud) “I have all the time in the world” followed by a long sigh. It’s a simple mind trick to return to presence. She shared several examples of how thinking this way led to better outcomes even when she was completely overscheduled. She also shared another game I love, where she recommends theme based personal challenges. Commit to your theme in every action for 3 days. She tells a fun story of when she chose ‘courage’ and how she went on a solo-ski trip, although she was not a strong skier. She skied the most challenging trails, ordered the most daring items on the restaurant menu and experimented with a new way of being. In the book she writes, “Take up new emotional habits. Sing, walk in nature, join a yoga class. Make the choice to step into life versus habitual numbing.” She adds how we can “improve the relationship with parts of ourselves and others.”
Habits and routines follow from our thoughts. But rewiring those automatic patterns of thinking and reacting requires effort. This book begins with her theories but it’s the mechanics of creating sustainable change, in the relationships with ourselves and others, that differentiates this book.
If you haven’t read the first book, The Art of Possibiity yet, I highly encourage you to start there. It’s the inspiration and Pathways to Possibility is how to move from good intentions to action.
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About Rosamund Zander.
She is a pioneer in the field of leadership and relationship. She has created a leadership model that coaches individuals to create a life of vision, passion and contribution. Her work is, in all its capacities, about growth. Her writing, teaching, and coaching creates pathways to lives that are authentic and meaningful.
As a family therapist and an executive coach, Rosamund Zander develops models for leadership and effective action. Her work is detailed in her books, The Art of Possibility and Pathways to Possibility, and present a synthesis of her work and the leadership practices of Boston Philharmonic conductor Benjamin Zander. Ms. Zander’s work is based on the idea that creativity is an innate adult capacity. She offers intuitive, inventive coaching for effective personal and professional relationships.